Great webinar question – “What is the best way to scale a relationship-heavy developer program”

I finished the first two of this week’s “Introduction to Building a World Class Developer Relations Program” webinars. I will present the webinar two more times on Thursday, October 13 at 10am and 1pm PDT. During one of the webinars I was asked a great question by Wendy: “What is the best way to scale a relationship-heavy developer program?” I completely missed the question in the queue and sent an apology email when I reviewed the question log after the webinar ended. I spent a little time looking at the question, parsing the terms. Then I sent a quick email to Wendy apologizing for missing the question during the webinar. I did offer a few bits of advice about scaling a developer relations program.

What is the best way to scale a relationship-heavy developer program?

Here are some quick thoughts:

  • Leverage developer members of your community who are active, talented and personable. Make them MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals) or whatever designation/badge you want to use. Encourage them to help with content, answers, videos, etc to add value. Give them content that they can localize in their country and region. Allow them to personalize the content so that it speaks with their voice. Many of these potential MVPs are consultants, authors, developers and are looking for gigs/jobs or just love to help. You can find MVP programs as an integral part of many developer programs including Microsoft, Embarcadero, CodeProject, Salesforce and communities where customers/members take part and add value.
  • A great article to read is by Reto Maier, Google evangelist – titled: “The Core Competencies of Developer Relations – Building a Team That Can Change the World”.
  • A recent talk by Chris Heilmann, Microsoft Evangelist – “Turning a community into evangelism helpers“. You can watch the video on YouTube. The video notes include: “One of the biggest issues of developer evangelism is scaling. In this session Chris Heilmann shows how during his time in Mozilla he started an Evangelism Reps program, shared materials with a world-wide community for re-use and localisation and how to keep upper management and marketing from interfering with your efforts. You’ll learn about ways to distribute content, train people on applying the content in a contextual manner and how to empower people to be their own voice.”
  • Rob Spectre, hacker in NY who works at Boxee, also has a YouTube video that talks about “Scaling developer evangelism“. The YouTube notes include: “If you thought the first 10,000 developers was hard – just wait. In the first public discussion of developer evangelism at Twilio in Europe, Rob Spectre shares what Twilio has learned over the past five years, serving over 700,000 developers with a mission critical evangelism program when your only product is an API.”.
  • You can leverage other systems/services that are available and have large developer followings. Use StackOverflow for developer questions to allow your program members to ask a question and receive answers and advice. StackOverflow has a large community of active developers who help answer big and little questions. You can find active users, voters, editors and moderators,  Not all answer systems have to be on your site or in your community. You can take RSS feeds from StackOverflow to bring relevant questions/answers into your developer program infrastructure for tags related to your products and services –


As I was writing this blog post I looked closer at the question again. “What is the best way to scale a relationship-heavy developer program?”. While my quick advice covered some aspects of scaling a developer program, I did not provide additional thoughts related to the phrase “relationship-heavy”.

Most seasoned developers just need quick answers to questions about a specific API or a problem. Other developers need additional business or partner support. The software development skills level of developer program members may also require additional content and services for beginning developers. I’ve used skill level categorization and tagging to allow searching based on the experience levels of developers: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Master, All.

Relationship-Heavy Developer Programs

There are some developer programs that have built in heavier relationship requirements by there very nature and often by regulatory and safety requirements: medical device software, financial systems applications, embedded software, security systems, etc. Some of these developer relations programs have software and human requirements including life critical testing, security screening, approval processes, update tracking, commercial agreements and more. Modern application stores provide a level of automated review and approval screening but still rely on team members to collaborate with developers to ensure that applications adhere to program and platform requirements.

I’ll have to ask for a definition of the term in the context of a specific developer relations program and think about additional advice for a relationship-heavy developer program.

Thanks, Wendy, for the great question this morning!